He directed them to refrain from personal revenge and acts of retaliation; He did not prohibit them from acting in self-defense or the defense of others. He called His disciples to be merciful, forgiving, and long-suffering, but He did not call them to abandon protecting others or to submit willingly to brutality.
Forgiveness is the prerogative and privilege of the injured. No one else can forgive on his or her behalf. Yeshua’s teachings against retaliation, personal vengeance, and demanding one’s “pound of flesh” apply to the individual, not to a court of law, not to a community, and not to a government.
It’s commonly believed that Yeshua’s teachings about love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek contradict the harsh Old Testament standard of justice. The Torah says, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, … ”, etc. (Exodus 21:24). It seemed that Yeshua contradicted this rule of repaying measure for measure.
According to some opinions of the time, a man is bound by an oath only when it contains the word “oath” in it or God’s name. Since Judaism attempts to sanctify the holy name of God by leaving it unpronounced, people taking oaths and vows sought ways around swearing directly in God’s name.
At first glance, this teaching looks like Yeshua forbids something that the Torah requires. On closer examination, there is no conflict between Yeshua’s words and the Torahs instructions regarding oaths and vows. Read why…
The Torah warns us “not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot” (Numbers 15:39). Gazing on others with lust constitutes “following after your eyes.” Harboring immoral thoughts in the imagination constitutes “following after your own heart.” This is the adultery of the heart which Yeshua warned His disciples to avoid.
The Torah defines adultery as sexual relations with a betrothed or married woman. Yeshua broadened the scope to include any breach of monogamous fidelity on the basis of the Torah’s words, “a man shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). He taught that even impure thoughts can constitute adultery of the heart.
If a creditor pressed the charge in a Gentile court of law, he could have the delinquent debtor thrown into a debtor’s prison where he would remain until his debt was paid down to the last cent. The incarcerated debtors often died in prison. The wise debtor wanted to negotiate a settlement with his creditor before the matter reached such a court.
The Torah says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), but the Master says that anger, hatred, insult, and public humiliation are tantamount to murder. Two forgotten sayings of Yeshua further illustrate his teaching. He warned His disciples that murder begins with anger in the heart.
Yeshua taught his disciples to expect persecution. He said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). By saying “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Yeshua indicated that those who endure persecution for his sake will find entrance into the kingdom.